Summary: What begins as a simple investigation into missing persons, becomes a fight for sanity, for life. The bonds of brotherhood will be tested as Dean and Sam battle a supreme evil... an ancient evil with a score to settle.
His leather chair creaked as he leaned back into it. Drumming his fingers on the large oak desk in front of him, his gaze travelled around his expensively decorated, top-floor office. It lingered briefly on the Dali painting, skimmed over the Ming vase and Warhol silk screen before coming to rest on his most prized possession; the Fender Stratocaster owned by his hero, Jimi Hendrix.
The soft glow cast from the overhead lights illuminated his treasures perfectly. It accentuated every soft curve, every priceless stroke of the brush, every masterful string of the guitar. He was surrounded by wealth and beauty; riches beyond imagination… so why the disillusionment?
He spun his chair round and looked out the floor-to-ceiling window of his office. Night had fallen and the stars were twinkling brightly in the black velvet curtain that shrouded the town; but it was his ghostly reflection, distortedly mirrored in the glass that held his attention.
Like his office, he was the epitome of style. The Dior suit, the Versace shirt and tie and the expensively cut hair, let all who saw him know he was a man who’d made his mark. It had been something he’d prided himself on, like the acquisitions of his trophies; money makes the man. And this man was at the top of his game; that’s what they all said, what they all saw.
But what they didn’t see, what he couldn’t understand was why the last few days had brought about a complete 180° turn. There’d been no life-changing event, no epiphany…just…nothing. Well, nothing but waking in a cold sweat in the dead of night; complete and utter fear overwhelming him… and the fading sound of soft laughter. A woman’s laugh. But it was laughter that held no mirth; laughter that brought goose-bumps to the skin and chilled him to the bone.
He tore his gaze from the sickly spectre living in the glass and heaved himself from the chair. It was time to go home to his lavishly designed, empty house. He sighed as he closed the notepad he’d been scribbling in, slipped on his coat, grabbed his briefcase and headed towards the door. He stopped at the guitar and ran a hand slowly down the strings, wanting to connect with something…with someone. He sighed as his hand fell from the legendary instrument; even Jimi couldn’t put a smile on his face tonight.
He kept his eyes downcast as he waited for the elevator; he didn’t want to see the emptiness of his eyes mirrored in the shiny steel doors. What the hell was wrong with him? This was all he’d ever wanted! All he’d strived for was now laid out in front of him! He was smart, successful, good looking and had no trouble with the ladies. He was living in the land of milk and honey. He was the envy of almost everyone he met. So why? Why the discontent?
He pondered this as he rode the elevator, his thoughts constantly returning to the lingering laughter of the dream. Dream or nightmare, he mused. That was really the question. And weren’t dreams just a manifestation of your inner demons?
He didn’t have time to ponder that question as the ‘ping’ of the elevator doors, surprised him. He’d done it again; zoned out without even realising it. No wonder the stockholders were getting nervous. Not that he cared; his whole career had been built on the backs of others; disregarding their hopes and dreams as he screwed them over in the lust for his own. Now, his only thoughts were on his mounting indifference. He frowned in thought…could it be connected?
That question stayed with him; his shoes echoing loudly on the Italian marble floors as he made his way towards the front door of his building; a monument to his success that now, strangely, meant nothing to him.
“Good evening, Mr Carlson.”
He turned, surprised again as a voice broke through his reverie. He stared at the man sitting behind the security desk, a frown slowly creasing his forehead as his mind fumbled for a name to put to the face.
He gave an awkward smile to the elderly gentleman, “I’m sorry. For the life of me, I can’t seem to remember your name.” He gave a nervous snort of laughter, “I see you everyday and …” He shook his head with embarrassment, “I apologise. You know my name and I don’t know yours. ”
A slow smile slid across the guard’s face, “What’s in a name, Sir?” He put a finger to the brim of his hat, “I’ll buzz you out.”
Roger Carlson’s frown grew deeper; he hesitated, wondering why the simple answer to a simple question was starting to become very important to him. But the seemingly unending buzzing of the security door was like a honing beacon. His legs seemed to act under a will of their own, and he walked to the exit, pushing through the double-glazed door and into the chilly night air.
The chill outside, matched the chill within, and he hunched his shoulders against the wind, his eyes on the sidewalk as he took the all too familiar route home. He passed ‘Joe’s Bar’n’Grill’, and stifled an inner shiver as he heard the sound of laughter floating from the barbeque-joint. The unknown woman’s laughter melded into the one from his dream; the high-pitched giggle of drunken happiness descending into a poisonous chuckle.
He quickened his pace; taking a short-cut as his desire to get home became almost overwhelming. He kept his eyes downcast; watching his feet – left…right…left…right… - his mind still snared within the nightmare. But had he looked up, had he taken more interest in his surroundings; he may have noticed that the shadows that ruled the alley were now deep, bottomless pits. The blackness held within seeming to pulse with villainous life as it slithered up the dank walls of both sides of the alley. It ate into the brickwork, claiming the crumbling façade as its own. It surged silently upwards; a stinking black tide that smothered everything it touched.
It raced ahead of the oblivious man; swallowing over-flowing trash cans and rusty dumpsters; gorging on the discarded remains of peoples lives…feeding itself, giving itself life. Each half-empty soda-can, every over-read newspaper and fast-food restaurant menu that littered the alley, providing sustenance to the black, throbbing mass.
It reached the end of the alleyway and billowed outwards; joining with its partner from the opposite wall and creating a dark, writhing barricade that waited eagerly for recognition.
“Goddammit!” he cursed as he slipped on an errant chocolate bar wrapper; his arms flailing as he tried to keep his balance. He took a steadying backwards step, frigid water splashing over his ankle and up his calf as his foot landed in a puddle. He carefully removed his foot, shaking his leg to remove the excess water; his face screwing up in disgust at the smell the puddle emitted. What had he stepped in?
He peered into the puddle, his scowl of disgust turning into a frown of confusion. Wasn’t water supposed to hold reflections? Even distorted ones? He slowly raised his head; the measured creak of his neck sounding loudly in his ears.
He shook his head in disbelief…denial, at what he saw. He dragged his eyes to the night-sky…or where it should have been had it not been blocked by an impenetrable, black thunderhead that surged violently in places.
He turned in circles; everywhere he looked he saw nothing but a black void. He was surrounded by a darkness that quivered and shook…as he now did. Fear took hold; a deep, primal fear that held a foreboding sense of déjàvu. It started in the pit of his stomach and rushed round his body at lightening speed; racing his heart and igniting every nerve and muscle with electric terror.
His eyes were wide with fear, his nostrils were flaring wildly and he sucked in short, raspy breaths of fetid air as he looked for any means of escape. But there was none. Everywhere he turned, everywhere he looked, the malignant mass swelled, as if daring him to try.
He stopped in his tracks as he heard the dull slap of footsteps behind him; his mind registering the lack of echo in this insane nightmare. The footfalls were like a summoning; but he didn’t want to turn around, didn’t want to see the owner of the footsteps; he knew it would be the death of him.
“Good evening, Mr Carlson.”
Roger Carlson spun to the familiar voice; a nervous chuckle of recognition dying on his lips as he spied the now menacing form of the security guard from his building. It wasn’t so much the surprise of seeing the once innocuous man here…but the insanity that shone brilliantly from his eyes.
“Good evening, Mr Carlson.”
Roger Carlson began to counter the predatory steps of the security guard, his fear now a raging torrent through his body. His heart was pounding in his chest, the blood rushing loudly through his ears as he back-pedalled.
“Good evening, Mr Carlson.”
He didn’t hear the small whimpers of fear that squeaked from his parched mouth; didn’t notice the tears that slid down his cheeks as he realised he had nowhere to run.
“Please…please…” he begged, “I’ll do whatever you want…just…”
“Good evening, Mr Carlson.” The guard’s smile, now as predatory as his steps “There’s someone here I’d like you to meet.”
Roger Carlson screamed; a scream that would have shattered the night had sound been allowed to escape his black prison. It was a scream borne from his depths as death stepped out from behind the man.
Skin as smooth and white as porcelain was barely covered by her translucent, charcoal-coloured, Grecian-style dress. Her ebony hair flowed behind her like black, gossamer wings that were fed from the malevolent mass. Her full, crimson lips smiled sweetly, a smile that didn’t reach her silver-flecked eyes.
Such evil held within such beauty was an obscenity.
He watched, spellbound, as she sashayed forward; the dirty puddles seeming to draw away from her approach as her tresses pulled the darkness with her. She stopped directly in front of him; looking at him with eyes that seemed to scour his soul. He couldn’t move; he was frozen in place by unmitigated terror as he bore witness to true, ancient evil.
“Please…” he whispered his plea.
Her smile grew wider, her lips pulling into a sneer that seemed to drip with blood. She raised an ivory hand and ran it gently down his cheek, “What’s in a name?” she hissed; her eyes flicking to the security guard at her side.
“I…I…please!” he begged again, “I’ll do whatever you want…”
Her hand tightened painfully around his jaw, “Tell me his name and I’ll let you live.” She said it quietly… seductively; like a lover’s gentle caress.
He turned his eyes to the security guard, “Help me…” he whimpered.
“HIS NAME!” she roared; her tapered fingernails piercing his cheeks as she lowered her face to his.
“I don’t know….” he wailed in utter despair. “I don’t know!”
She laughed, and he recoiled as the woman’s nails scraped along his teeth, drawing his face closer. He knew that laugh. It was the one from his dream.
“He is everything you are not!” she sneered; a hollow laugh floating over him. “But then, you are everything he is not.” Her tongue snaked out and licked slowly at the blood that ran from his wounds. “Aaah, the taste of fear,” she turned his face to hers, “The time for retribution has come!”
Roger Carlson screamed as death was visited upon him. Her hair tore free from the pulsing mass that surrounded the players in this nightmarish scene; it wrapped around his ankles in a vice-like grip; his wrists were bound tightly by the black tresses as thick strands encircled his throat.
Each fibre looked silken…smooth; but it cut into his flesh like razor wire as he was lifted from the alley floor. He stared into the wrath-filled eyes of his murderer and whispered…
She smiled, “Why not?”
The hair around her beautifully malevolent face began to float ominously towards him; he stared in abject terror as they whipped forward suddenly; tearing the clothes from his body and biting into his skin, leaving him naked and utterly vulnerable; completely at her mercy.
She smiled at him again as the dark strands gouged deep into his wrists and ankles; his blood dripping onto the dirty cobblestones below.
“You reap what you sow,” she hissed.
He howled as the black, pulsing mass reunited with the filaments and began to draw them back to the fold; pulling his arms and legs in opposite directions. He heard the ‘pop’ of his shoulders breaking free of their sockets; the wrenching of his hips from his pelvis, and screamed at the excruciating stretching of his skin to breaking point.
It was a slow and painful desecration that was performed to the malignant strains of female laughter. Laughter that intensified as his head was pushed down and he was forced to watch his limbs ripped from his body.
The last thing he saw was her black hair tossing his limbs contemptuously aside; her crimson lips held wide with joyful, villainous laughter.
‘Raven hair; ruby lips;
Sparks fly from her fingertips;
Echoed voices, in the night
She’s a restless spirit
On an endless flight;’
Dean sighed as he threw back another shot; ignoring the look from his brother as he signalled the bartender for another. He picked up his beer and leant casually against the bar, finally making eye contact with Sam.
“Sammy, if you want to do something for me, change the goddamn song.”
‘Wooo hooo, witchy woman,
See how high she flies.
Wooo hooo, witchy woman,
She got the moon in her eye.’
Sam laughed as he saw Dean wince. He leaned back against the bar, resting his elbows on the top as he instinctively scanned the crowd again. Some habits were just too hard to kick. “Not an ‘Eagles’ fan, dude?”
“Does that sound like classic rock, Sammy?” He turned and threw back the shot, “And if you answer in the affirmative, it’s an ass-kicking.”
‘She held me spellbound in the night;
Dancing shadows and firelight;
Crazy laughter in another room;
And she drove herself to madness;
With a silver spoon;’
“Alright, dude. If we don’t get out of here, I’m going to empty the Colt into the damn jukebox,” said Dean as he sculled the rest of his beer, “Because that, has demonic possession written all over it.” He grinned at his brother “Pay the man,“ he instructed; laughing quietly as he walked out of the bar.
Sam mumbled under his breath as he threw a twenty on the bar and finished off the dregs of his beer. He ignored the premonistic shiver that gripped him as the melodious strains followed him out the door…
‘Wooo hooo, witchy woman,
See how high she flies.
Wooo hooo, witchy woman,
She got the moon in her eye.’
The Impala was already rumbling in the parking lot as Sam trotted down the stairs. He hunched his shoulders against the brisk wind as he wrenched the door open, sliding into the car and slamming the door on the winter chill.
Dean released the handbrake before Sam’s ass had barely made contact with the leather, and he slammed his foot down on the gas; a smile spreading over his lips as the Impala fishtailed out of the parking lot and onto the road. He punched ‘play’ on the tape deck and his grin widened.
“Now this is what I’m talking about, Sammy.” Dean beat his hands on the steering-wheel in time with the Jimi Hendrixes’ ‘Foxy Lady’. “I’m tellin’ ya, dude, I’ll take ‘Foxy Lady’ over that weak-assed ‘Witchy Woman’ any day.” He grinned as he began to sing, “You make me want to get up and scream…”
“Oh, god…make it stop,” Sam groaned, putting his hands over his ears – which only made his brother sing all the louder.
Dean grinned as he looked at his long-suffering brother; it was times like these that made him think the comments of Ash and Alex Armstrong were just a load of imagined bullshit. It was Sammy riding shotgun; his baby brother; nothing more. He reached over and pulled Sam’s hand away from the side of his head.
“Okay, dude. No more singing. Grab the file.”
“Promise?” Sam asked. “’Cause there’s only so much of thatI can take before I blow my own brains out with the Colt.”
He laughed at his brother’s look of feigned shock and reached into his bag, grabbing the file on their latest hunt. Well, there was still some speculation on that but Dean had been insistent, no matter how much Sam had tried to counter his arguments. But the increase in their fights (more so, the closer they got to Bangor) was wearing thin and wearing him down.
He sighed as he opened the dog-eared file, “Dean, there isn’t a lot to go on. Four missing people…” he looked over at his brother, “People go missing all the time, dude.”
“Uh huh. But doesn’t it seem more than a co-incidence that someone each of the missing knew, went all looney-tunes about the same time?”
“Aaah, no. People go crazy about as often as people go missing.” Sam flicked through the small newspaper clippings of the missing. Well, all but one was small. The latest missing person was a corporate high-flyer who left his office two nights ago and hadn’t been seen since. He read over the piece and frowned, “Roger Carlson…”
Dean nodded, “Dude, explain to me why a man that’s worth literally hundreds of millions of dollars, hangs out in Maine?”
Sam closed his eyes and pinched the bridge of his nose, “Dean, do I have to explain the internet superhighway to you again?”
Dean rolled his eyes at his brother, “Noooo. And puh-lease, I’m still recovering from the physics lesson you and Ash tried to give me.”
“Dean…” Sam sighed in frustration, “You can run a business, multi-million dollar or otherwise, from anywhere in the world. Look at what Rodney Marsh did from his basement…” he trailed off; leaving the rest of that sentence unfinished. He didn’t like thinking back on that time in the basement; it left a dark, cold pit of poison swirling in his belly. But worse than that, was the feeling of rightness that accompanied it.
He ignored that thought, and the intense stare of his brother, as he rifled through the sparse folder, “The security guard…Tom Garrity…”
Dean furrowed his brow; he was starting to see that look on his brother’s face again; the one that read ‘confusion’ on the features but held a tinge of fear in the eyes. He pushed that thought aside and slipped back into the familiar suit of business mode.
“Thirty-three years on the job and working the same building, day in and day out. Different bosses, of course. He’d been working for Carlson for eight years. According to police reports, the night Carlson went missing, he was working at the front desk alone. When the change of shift came in the next morning, Garrity was nowhere to be found. Cops discovered him wandering the streets a couple of hours later.”
Dean glanced at Sam. “And?”
“Yeah. And. As in what else?”
“I know what ‘and’ means, dude,” Dean replied testily. Sam was at it again; shooting down everything he said. His hands tightened on the steering wheel, “That’s all I got.”
Sam flicked through the papers, “There’s nothing here about what he said to the cops, his physical state…nothing?”
Dean sighed, “That’s what I’m saying. Seems Carlson’s company’s lawyers have shut everything down. Kinda strange dontchya think?” he asked, sarcasm dripping from his words.
“I don’t know what to damn well think!” said Sam with exasperation. “There’s nothing in here that looks like it’s something for us.”
“Sammy, we’ve worked off less.” He glanced at Sam again, “Why are you so determined to not look at this?”
Sam turned in his seat to face Dean, his hands gripping the file that rested in his lap, “And why are you so determined to look at it? I mean, shit, dude…four disappearances and four people that’ve lost their minds? Yeah, that screams us.”
Dean had had enough. He slammed his foot down hard on the brake pedal; the Impala slewing as it skidded to a stop in the middle of the road.
“Jesus Christ, Dean!” Sam yelled as he put his hands on the dash to stop himself crashing into it.
Dean turned to his brother, resting his arm over the back of his seat, “Alright, Sammy. What the hell is going on with you? You’re fighting me at every turn! You won’t stop riding my ass about the deal! And now you’re stone-walling jobs for no goddamn reason?”
Sam felt the pit of anger that had been swirling inside him, surge to the surface, “You want to talk about your deal? Lets talk.” He ignored Dean’s groan, “You sold your soul to bring me back, Dean! You’re going to Hell, remember?”
“How could I forget! You bring it up every five freakin’ minutes!”
“’Cause you’re not dealing with it! You’re either laughing it off or playing it down! Do you have any idea what…” Sam stopped.
Dean’s eyes narrowed, “What, Sammy? Do I have any idea what they’re gonna do to me?” He laughed hollowly, “We’ve killed how many of their kind? Not to mention putting a bullet into Azazel and shooting their plans to shit! So, let me guess! Aaah, torture, pain, unimaginable suffering...”
“Shut up…” Sam muttered.
Dean ignored him, “I’m sure they’ve got some awesome plans in place. Maybe some burning, what with the hellfire and all…”
“Shut up.” Sam angered.
Dean pushed his point home, not understanding why he wanted to hurt his brother this way. “Probably some general mutilation…”
Sam clenched his fists, “I said shut up!”
“And let’s not forget about the mental…”
‘SHUT UP!” Sam yelled. He watched as his hand snaked out, his fist connecting with Dean’s jaw and rocking his brother’s head sideways. He stared at the offending fist, disbelief washing through his anger. “Dean…”
Dean turned roughly in his seat and slammed his foot on the gas; his bruised jaw clenching as the Impala’s tyres spun on the blacktop. He kept his eyes focussed on the road in front of him; ignoring the faltering stammers of his brother as he followed the line down the highway. That endless damn line he’d been following his whole life; only now, that line held and ending. An ending that was wrapped up in his brother.
Dean sat slouched in the surprisingly comfortable chair of the crappy motel on the outskirts of Bangor, Maine. The file was open in front of him and he sipped at his coffee as he went over the contents for the hundredth time. Each case looked like the simple act of a missing person, but he knew better. He pulled the notepad towards him; time to work this shit out.
The first disappearance: John Lacuna, 41. Went out for cigarettes one evening and never returned. Wife and two kids left behind. Nothing unusual - apart from the bad cliché of the whole thing. But Lacuna’s brother-in-law had also gone missing. He’d been found sitting in his own shit out the front of Lacuna’s boating business. Totally off the planet.
The second disappearance: Leanne Wilmott, 27. Last seen by co-workers when out for drinks to celebrate her promotion. Left the bar, alone; around midnight. Reported missing by her flatmate two days later. Her boyfriend was being held in the psych ward of Penobscot County Jail as a suspect in her disappearance.
The third disappearance: Gerard Atkinson, 35. Left home for the gym; never returned. According to reports; Atkinson never arrived. An associate of Atkinson’s was found in a catatonic state the next day on the outskirts of the town; Bryan Jacobi had been reported missing by his parents.
And then there was Roger Carlson and Tom Garrity.
He read over the notes again; to an outsider it looked like a random string of missing persons that all had plausible reasons for up and leaving. But Dean knew this was something for him and Sam. Instinctively knew it. And he always trusted his instincts. This was a job. No doubt about it.
He rubbed absentmindedly at his jaw, his eyes flicking to his brother’s sleeping form. Sam had persisted with half-hearted apologies for about ten minutes, but Dean’s lack of response meant the four hours it had taken to drive to Bangor, had been travelled in tense-filled, stony silence. He’d dropped Sam at the motel, driven to the nearest bar and drowned his anger and his worry in as many beers as he could.
He took the wad of cash he’d sharked from the locals and threw it on the table; his eyes skimming over the contents it held. This was what his life boiled down to: a pistol, a file of newspaper clippings, a chewed pen, half-empty coffee cup, his father’s journal and won money. His gaze travelled over to his brother again; Sammy; the one good thing in his life. And it was a life that was running out more quickly than he cared to admit.
He looked at his watch; 2.17a.m. He was too damn tired to work through the list anymore. He stood quietly and padded over to his bed; taking his blanket and placing it carefully over his brother. He turned off the lamp on the side-table between their beds, kicked off his boots and flopped onto his bed. Tomorrow. He’d sort it out with Sammy tomorrow.
Sam kept his eyes closed as he waited for Dean’s breathing to become the steady, rhythmic cadence he was used to. He sat up slowly; slipped silently out of bed and went to the table, picking up Dean’s notes. He read his brother’s ordered script by the soft moonlight that filtered through the tattered curtains and sighed inwardly; he settled himself in the chair his brother had vacated and began going over the newspaper clippings again. He grabbed the laptop from his bag and entered the searches he needed; keeping one eye on Dean and the other on the screen as he added to his brother’s notes.
He stopped when his eyes began to feel like sandpaper and his lids became too heavy. He switched off the laptop, put it back in his bag and went to his bed. He took the blanket Dean had placed over him and put it gently over his brother. He slipped back into bed; a small smile touching his lips as he heard Dean mumble ‘bitch’ in his sleep. Tomorrow. He’d sort it out with Dean tomorrow.
Andrew Siletti was seething inside. He paced the threadbare carpet of his small apartment, his hands clenching and unclenching in untold rage. He stoped as he got the wall again and raised his fist; slamming it into the plaster over and over. Low guttural yells of fury squeezed past clenched teeth and burst from thin, pale lips as he vented his anger on the wall.
She’d done it again! Used her assets to steal the sale of the property right out from underneath him! ‘Friendly competition’, she called it. Slutting around was more like it. Those low cut, skin-tight shirts that left nothing to the imagination and the short, short skirts she wore as she flitted about the office, giggling like a school-girl….aargggh! It drove him crazy! His boss, however, saw nothing but tits and ass.
He stopped his beating of the hapless wall as realisation dawned on him; she was sleeping with that old bastard! That had to be it! He laughed nastily; of course! It all made perfect sense now! They worked on commission, and she always got the easy sales. Well, it was kinda apt. She was easy. That was why she’d just moved into a new penthouse apartment uptown while he still lived in a one-bedroom apartment in the shitty end of town.
He was a hard worker, was honest with potential buyers and never took a sale from the other agents. That was unethical. But not Miss Fancy-Slut-Pants. Nooo. Not her. His mind raged as he thought back to earlier that day. She had slid her ass onto his desk; smiling coyly as she crossed her legs provocatively.
‘Just closed that sale on the ‘Montague’ property you’ve been working on for the last three months, Andy.” She’d smiled at him again as she ran perfectly manicured fingernails across the top of her breasts. ‘It’s amazing what the right kind of persuasion can do these days.” She’d laughed at the anger that shrouded features. ‘What? Nothing you want to say, Andy?” she’d gushed.
He’d looked her in the eye, trying to think of some witty but nasty response “My name’s Andrew,” was all he’d managed to grunt out. Her laughter as she’d slipped off the desk and practically skipped over to her own, had been like nails running down a blackboard.
He yelled in frustration; why was it other people always got the breaks? Why was it always the beautiful, the charming, the slick that always had everything handed to them? Where was karma when you needed it? Probably out on a smoke-break, he thought with a derisive laugh.
He turned; a small squeak of fear breaking free of him as he spied the woman standing in his lounge-room. “How…how did you get in here?” he demanded.
“The how is not important,” she intoned softly, a smile forming on ruby lips. “The why is all that matters, Andrew.”
“How do you know my name?” he asked, taking a backwards step as she took one towards him. “And why are you here?” He began to anger as he felt the all-to-familiar flutterings of fear that always gripped him when in the presence of beautiful women. “Tell me now or I’ll call the police!”
She shook her head with a smile, “Andrew, Andrew, Andrew. I’m not here to hurt you; I’m here to help you.”
He let out a small laugh, inwardly cursing himself when he heard the nervousness it held. “Yeah, right.”
“Oh, but I am,” she smiled. “I’m here to make everything better. To …tip the scales, so to speak.”
Another smile fell across her lips as she took slow, measured steps towards him, “All you have to do is listen, Andrew. Just listen. You can do that, can’t you? Listen to the voice of reason?” she whispered.
“I…I…why should I listen to you? What can you do, to help me?”
Her smile grew more seductive, “I can give you everything you want, Andrew. Everything you’ve yearned for. Everything denied you.”
Andrew Siletti watched the raven-haired woman glide gracefully towards him; a vision of beauty that intrigued and frightened him at the same time. Her words were like a soft caress on his psyche; a gentle hand that stroked his deepest desires and coaxed them free. A voice that was a siren-call, touching something deep within him… and he did as he was asked; he listened.
Penelope ‘Pepper’ Jorgenson sashayed her hips as she walked down the main street of Bangor - ‘Main Street’. She giggled to herself; it never failed to make her laugh. The city planners really went all out. She pulled her leather jacket around her slim body as she strutted to her new apartment in the most sought after area in Bangor. She needed to get home as quickly as she could so she could wash the stink of ‘Old Man Weaver’ from her.
She stifled a shudder at the memory; the horny old bastard had kept her panties this time too. It was no wonder she was cold. The winter wind was blowing right up her skirt. She sighed loudly; maybe she should just walk away now. She had the apartment she always wanted and the sale she’d closed today meant she had enough money in her bank account to start up her own Real Estate Agency.
It had been hard, back-breaking work (she ignored the pun of that thought) but she’d done it all herself. She’d struggled her whole life, working dead-end job after dead-end job until she realised no-one was ever going to give plain old ‘Peta Jones’ a helping hand; so ‘Penelope Jorgenson’, aka ‘Pepper’, had been born.
She had to admit that ‘Pepper’ was sometimes a cold, calculating bitch (she got that from her mother) but she’d achieved everything her trailer-trash parents said she never could. She’d shown them! Well, she’d tried to when she’d gone back to her hometown in her shiny new BMW and flashy new clothes; but her mother had just laughed at her and said something about ‘making her way to the top on her back’ while her father had smiled a yellow-toothed grin and asked her for money.
She’d never gone back.
She nodded to herself; yep, tomorrow she’d hand in her resignation, grab all her stuff and get away from that hell-hole of an office and start afresh. Maybe she’d bring Andrew with her. The poor guy needed a break. Sure, she’d been one of the main reasons he hadn’t met his commission quota this month; but she saw a lot of her old self in Andrew … and besides, for some reason, she’d been having these strange dreams about him. Although why he laughed like a girl in them, didn’t make a lot of sense.
She got to the front door of her building and used her sparkling new key to let herself in. She ran her hand up the gleaming wooden banister as she made her way upstairs. The ‘out-of-order’ sign on the elevator, not bothering her.
She finally got to the door to her floor; she smiled; her floor. The whole damn floor was hers! She put another key into the lock and turned it, pushing open the door and frowning. The lights must have gone out – it was pitch dark in her apartment. She reached a hand to her left, looking for the light-switch; but she drew it back quickly as she felt something…jello-like slide across her fingers.
She heard the door to the stairwell click behind her and she began to fumble in her purse for the small flashlight she kept there. She didn’t understand the panic that began to well inside her; why she felt the sudden urge to pee so bad, it hurt; and when the small flash-light slipped from her fumbling fingers, she let out a small cry of what sounded like fear.
She scrabbled around on the floor; her fingers searching blindly for the light that would break the darkness. What felt like an eternity must have only been a minute; but the sigh of relief as her fingers finally clasped around the cold metal, was tinged with almost hysterical laughter.
She rose slowly; pushing the little rubber button of the small flashlight, a high-pitched squeal of fear tearing from her as a face was illuminated not six inches from her.
It was a face that was familiar but was almost unrecognisable. It held such anger, such rage, that her hand began to shake; making his face jump in and out of the shadows.
A slow, insidious smile crept over his lips, “My name is Andrew!”
She nodded; unable to lay voice to anything but small, pitiful whimpers. Her eyes darted around her apartment, but she could see nothing but complete and utter darkness wherever she looked. Darkness that seemed stretch deeper…larger than the apartment itself. She turned skittish eyes back to her intruder and let loose a scream of utter terror as she saw the face that had replaced Andrew’s.
It was a face that skewered fear into her. Ruby lips that appeared smeared with blood; almost translucent skin that seemed to glow on its own; silver-flecked eyes that pulsed with insane light, and black hair that whipped about the face like snakes poised to strike.
And strike they did. They lashed out; striking like a whip at her face… her legs…anywhere bare flesh was visible. She screamed again as the acid sting of the cuts burned into her skin. Every evasive movement she tried to make was met with more venomous whips. She let loose another scream as the flashlight was knocked from her hands and went spinning across the floor; the beam of light illuminating the nothingness in which she was trapped.
She howled as the flashlight flickered…once…twice…before complete and utter darkness enveloped her.
The sound of wrathful laughter filled her ears…it was the laughter from her dreams and she began to cry, to beg…but the sharp needle-like slap that whipped across her lips stopped her. Tears ran down her gouged cheeks as the barbed tresses wound their way up her legs; holding her in place as she waited, blind, for her death. She prayed it would be quick.
Dean and Sam rode the elevator in silence. The ‘muzak’ that played had the same mind-numbing reaction all muzak did. It made you want to drive something long and sharp into your ears to make it stop. Dean kept glancing at his brother via the mirrors that lined the elevator; he’d wanted to say something to his brother about their fight when he’d woken this morning, but Sam had been in the shower. And when he’d noticed that Sam had added to his notes on the disappearances; instead of making it easier, it had only made it more difficult.
They’d stammered their way through breakfast before heading over to Roger Carlson’s building and lying their way past the security guards with their usual flair. So, now, here they were; riding an elevator, the same awkward silence hanging heavily between them.
Sam stopped the surreptitious glancing at his brother and turned to face him, “Dean…”
“Forget about it.”
Sam shook his head, “No. I don’t know why I hit you, Dean…”
Dean finally looked directly at his brother, “Yeah, you do.”
Sam sighed inwardly; when Dean didn’t want to talk about something, he could evade the subject like no-one else Sam knew; but he was brutally honest when it came to making others own up to their actions. “Okay, you pissed me off with all that talk about…torture and…suffering; and before I knew it, my hand …”
“Fist,” Dean corrected.
“Okay, fist, was on its way. But, shit, dude…don’t make jokes about it. Not to me. I deserve better than that.”
Dean piqued an eyebrow, crossing his arms over his chest as he leaned against the elevator mirror, “You do?”
Sam nodded, “Damn straight, I do. Not only am I your brother, but I’m the freakin’ reason you’re going to that shithole. You save your jokes for Ash or Bobby, not me.”
“Sammy…” he started; his first instinct was to argue with Sam but he fought it back, he’d promised himself he’d sort it out with his brother and this was as close as he was gonna get without Sam going all ‘emo’ on his ass again; and that was the last thing he wanted. He sighed loudly, “You hit me again, not only will I put you on your ass, I’ll shave your eyebrows while you’re sleeping and draw ‘em back in with pink magic-marker,” he grinned, “Again.”
Sam shook his head with a laugh as he remembered waking the morning after a werewolf hunt when he was 14, and Dean had done just that. “You do that, and I’ll tell everyone about the he/she in Omaha.”
“Dude…” Dean started, but he was interrupted by the ‘ping’ of the elevator door. They’d reached the top floor. He straightened his shoulders and cracked his neck, “Time to go to work.”
They flashed their fake I.D. at the security guard posted at the office doors; the man nodded as he opened it for them and directed them to Roger Carlson’s domain.
“Everything’s as it was the night he disappeared?” Sam asked.
Sam nodded and followed Dean past the empty desks that sat outside Carlson’s office; the tomb-like silence of the place, reinforced by the loud echo of their footsteps on the wooden floor. He quickened his pace as Dean pushed through the door to Carlson’s office.
He swore softly as he ran into Dean’s back, “Dean?” he asked as he saw his brother’s eyes transfixed to the far side of the room. “You alright, dude?”
Dean pointed, “It…that…is that…oh, man…”
Sam watched as Dean walked, mesmerised, towards a guitar that seemed to hover magically just off the wall. Sam shook his head and turned his eyes to the rest of the office; his mouth dropping open as he walked to a painting on the opposite wall. He looked at the signature; Jesus…it was an original Dali; it had to be worth millions. He went to the silk-screen and shook his head in disbelief; another original. He turned his head warily to the vase and picked it up carefully, putting it down quickly and stepping away.
“Jesus Christ, Dean. The man’s got artwork here that’s worth millions!” Sam gasped in awe.
Dean turned to his brother, “Fuck that, dude. He’s got Jimi Hendrixes’ Fender!”
Sam sighed in exasperation; it was time to give his brother a lesson in the Arts. “Dean, this…” he pointed to a vase, “Is a priceless Ming vase.”
“Priceless, my ass,” Dean muttered as he looked at the old vase with the freaky looking dragon on it. He turned his eyes back to the Fender, his gaze travelling lovingly over the legendary instrument. “Now this…” he instructed Sam, “Is a work of priceless art.”
Dean raised a hand; his fingers moving in slow motion towards the strings. He hesitated just briefly; savouring every detail of the moment before he let his fingers touch the masterpiece in front of him. He closed his eyes and moaned softly as his fingers slid slowly down the strings; he was touching Jimi’s guitar! JIMI’S GUITAR! His fingers were where Jimi’s had been! Where the man had strummed out ‘All Along the Watchtower’ and ‘Purple Haze’, just to name a few. This was the guitar that created music that had transfixed the world; changed the world. He let out another soft moan; opening his eyes as they glazed over.
“Sammy, you gotta come here,” he whispered hoarsely.
Sam faltered at the sight of his brother caressing the guitar, “I’m a little frightened right now, Dean. I’ll stay here, thanks all the same.” He paused uncomfortably, “You…ahh, need a moment, dude?”
“Sam! Get your ass over here!”
Sam shook his head vigorously, “Na-ah. No way and no how.”
He took a backwards step, his heel clipping the pedestal that held the Ming vase. “SHIIIIT!” he yelled; diving to his right as the priceless vase toppled from its wooden podium. He watched as the vase spun end over end, on a sure crash-course towards the floor. His mind went into a mini-meltdown as he realised he would be the cause of the destruction of something so beautifully and meticulously crafted over six-hundred years ago.
Dean turned to Sam’s yell; his hand still caressing the Fender, and watched, dumbfounded, as his brother dived towards the fugly, falling vase; a look of sheer and utter horror on Sam’s face. “Uh oh,” he whispered to himself.
Sam yelled triumphantly as the tips of his fingers made contact with the porcelain, mere inches from the floor. He turned quickly, dragging the vase away from the mahogany floor-boards, encircling the urn gently in his arms and holding it protectively against his body as his shoulder slammed against the floor,
“Thank God, thank God, thank God…” he muttered over and over. He’d saved the vase.
The door to the office was flung open; Dean and Sam both turning surprised eyes to the shocked ones of the security guard that stood in the doorway.
The man stared in stunned silence at the two FBI Agents. One was on the floor holding a vase in a lover’s embrace while the other was stroking a guitar in a way that didn’t seem…natural. He reached over quickly and grabbed the door-knob; he wanted nothing more than to be out of the bizarre scene he’d stumbled into.
“I’ll…aaah…leave you…to it…then.” He slammed the door shut as ‘guitar-guy’ took a faltering step towards him. He fled to the outer-sanctum; and, hopefully, to safety; glad that he hadn’t shaken either man’s hand.
Dean turned his eyes from the slammed door to those of his brother, “Well done, Sammy. Now he thinks I’m a freak because of you.”
Sam stared incredulously at his brother as he rose and placed the vase carefully back on the pedestal. “Me? You’re the one who’s indulging in heavy-petting with a goddamn guitar!”
Dean put a hand to his heart and gasped, “Blasphemer!”
“You’re an idiot,” Sam laughed.
“I’m an idiot? You had a freakin’ vase attached to your crotch.” He grinned at his brother, “And she ain’t all that pretty, dude.” His grin widened as he walked towards Carlson’s desk, “You need to up your standards.”
Sam shook his head with a laugh, “You are a freak.”
“As I live and breathe,” Dean laughed as he sat in the chair behind the desk. “Alright, Rog, lets see what you’ve been up to.”
There was nothing on the desk in front of him except a phone, the standard old-fashioned pen holder and an un-used notepad. Dean began going through the desk-drawers but found nothing that gave him any clue as to what good ol’ Rog had been doing before he disappeared.
“Where’s his computer, Sammy?”
Sam was scanning the titles of the books held in the large book-case on the left wall, “I don’t think we’re gonna find anything here about why he disappeared, Dean. I mean, look around you. The guy’s surrounded himself with priceless art; difficult to get, priceless art. This is all for show, to let others know who he was. It’s like a stage without the player.” He opened a filing cabinet and flicked through. “And I’m sure the lawyers have taken anything that would put Carlson in a bad light. Nervous investors and all that.”
“Oh, they’re protecting their asses, alright,” said Dean. He pulled the empty notepad to him and rifled through a drawer ‘til he found a pencil. He hit pay-dirt about half-way through. “Here, Sammy.”
Sam came over and Dean turned the notepad towards him. Sam squinted as he read the faint words illuminated through the lead, “’Her laugh will be the death of me’?” He looked at his brother, “What the hell does that mean?”
Dean shook his head, “Don’t know, dude. But he’s written it like …twenty times. It means something. And look, the last one? He pierced the damn page with an exclamation point.” He leaned back in the leather chair, drumming his fingers on the desk as his gaze drifted around the office, “So he’s either really pissed about chicks that laugh, or he’s a grammar Nazi.”
Sam stared blankly at his brother, “Grammar Nazi?”
“Yeah, you know…” he saw the look on Sam’s face, “Forget it.” He rose from behind the desk, taking the EMF from his jacket and scanning the room; the eerie silence from the machine telling him all he needed to know.
“Okay, well Carlson left on foot that night,” Sam stated. “He lives about ten blocks from here. Lets walk it.”
Dean went to the Fender again and let his fingers splay over the instrument; a deep sigh escaping his lips. “I can’t, like…”
Dean sighed again as he made his way to the door of the office; casting one last, wistful glance back at the guitar. He turned to Sam, “I’ll give you a minute alone with Ming…”
Sam pushed his brother through the door, “That whole thing with the guitar was more than disturbing, Dean.”
“You humped a vase, dude. Don’t talk to me about disturbing,” he grinned.
They pushed through the outer-door, the security guard taking a large, not-so-subtle step away from them as they passed.
They waited for the elevator, neither of them looking towards the security guard as Sam continually pressed the call button. “Come on, come on…” he muttered.
Dean leaned over and whispered, “You know he’s gonna be telling his buddies J.Edgar Hoover jokes over beers tonight.”
“That’s not even funny, Dean,” Sam whispered back, sighing with relief as the elevator doors finally opened.
“It’s a little funny,” said Dean as followed Sam into the lift. He poked his head back out, a serious expression on his face as he addressed the security guard, “I thank you. Your country thanks you,” he grinned, “And J.Edgar sends his regar…” he was stopped as Sam yanked him back into the elevator.
“Dean!” he hissed, trying to stifle a grin.
Dean laughed at his brother, “You get Ming’s number?”
“I’ll see if she has a sister,” said Sam, slapping his brother upside the head affectionately.
Dean and Sam made their slow way towards Roger Carlson’s house, hoping they were taking the same route home he had. Their hands were tucked into their pockets and they hunched their shoulders against the biting wind that howled down the main street of Bangor. A wind that seemed to want to halt their progress, to push them back the way they’d come.
“So I hacked into the police records last night,” started Sam. “They canvassed pretty much everyone between here and Carlson’s home and no-one saw him.”
Dean nodded, “So Garrity was the last one who did, and he’s gone all ‘One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest’ on us, so we’re not gonna get anything from him.”
“I tried getting into the records of …” he stopped as they walked past an alleyway and he cocked his head.
Dean turned back when he realised his brother was no longer acting as a large wind-break; concern touching his features as he watched Sam cock his head left and right as he looked into an alleyway, “Sammy? You alright?”
Sam ignored Dean as he walked slowly into the alley. The skin on the back of his neck was standing on end and goose-bumps rose on his skin that had nothing to do with the frigid wind that whipped about him. Something had been here. He was sure of it. And it wasn’t a good something.
He stopped about midway down, turning in slow circles, his eyes roaming over everything within the alley. Whatever it had been, it had been …big.
“Sammy?” Dean asked as he approached his brother; not liking the look that sat on Sam’s face. “Dude…” he put a hand on Sam’s shoulder, frowning as his baby brother seemed to snap out of whatever trance he’d been in.
“Get the EMF out.”
Dean took it from his jacket and switched it on; both of them wincing at the scream the gadget emitted.
“Off the scale, dude,” Dean muttered as he ran the EMF around the surroundings.
“I don’t see sulphur and I don’t smell it, Dean.”
“The EMF doesn’t lie,” said Dean as he turned off the screech. “Something was here.” He scanned the alley, another frown forming on his face. “You see this, Sammy?” he pointed down the alley. “It’s like a path’s been cleared down the middle.” He walked to the side of the alley, “And pushed away from the walls…”
“Both sides,” said Sam from the opposite side. He looked up the wall; the building was old, but there were no cracks of crumbling bricks on the façade. It almost looked like it had been cleaned. He jogged to the end of the alley and checked the brickwork on the back of the building; it was a mess, just like it should be. He walked slowly back, his mind trying to process the oddness of the place. He raised his eyes from the cobblestones and saw Dean crouched, stick in hand as he tried to fish something out from underneath the dumpster.
“What’ve you got?” Sam asked as he crouched next to his brother.
Dean reached in and pulled a bloodied piece of material out from underneath the dumpster. He turned to Sam, “Jackpot.”
“You don’t know that’s Carlson’s.”
“You wanna bet on that, Sammy?” He stood; “And look…” he pointed up, “Arterial spray. It’s faint, but it’s there.” He looked at the blood-stained silk cloth, “The EMF, the freaky clearing around the place…the blood…Carlson bit it here, I guarantee you.” He turned to his brother, “These people aren’t missing, Sammy. They’re dead. And their crazy friends either saw it, or had something to do with it.” He folded the material carefully and put it in his jacket, “Time to pay Tom Garrity a visit.”
Sam nodded as he followed Dean out of the alley; his eyes moving rapidly over every part of the place; looking for something…anything, that would steer them in the right direction. He spun on his heel, “Did you hear that?”
Dean turned back to Sam, “Huh?” He took a step towards his brother, “You alright, Sammy?”
Sam laughed as he shook his head. “Yeah, fine. Just the wind, dude. Lets go.”
He followed Dean from the alley, casting glances over his shoulder, not sure what he expected see or what he expected to hear. He shook his head again; it was probably just laughter from the bar that backed onto the alley. He looked back one last time; nothing.
He sighed and followed his brother to the Impala; not realising that had he looked up instead of back, he would have seen the black snake-like form that slithered along the brickwork…watching his every move.
She stood at the window; a sensual smile resting on her lips as she surveyed the town below her. The erotic lull of night had fallen; it was her time now. She turned; running an ivory hand along the expensive sofa; her fingernails leaving deep incisions in the brown leather as she passed. The once immaculate white walls oozed her essence; the black death slinking over the walls and ceiling. Dark, oily strands stretched from the ceiling, hanging languidly before falling free and slithering across the floor to rejoin its source; like the prodigal son returning to open arms; only these arms were blackened and infested with evil at its most powerful.
She turned her head to a maniacal giggle; a slow, seductive smile forming on her lips as she took in her handiwork. The man sat in the small threshold; the door behind him and walls that surrounded him, were not covered by the black mire, but a haemorrhage of another kind.
The walls ran thick with blood; fresh flowing over dried as it pooled in large puddles at the base. Great crimson splashes littered the walls like a gruesome Jackson Pollock painting; small morsels of flesh, and tufts of torn hair giving texture to the bloodied artwork.
While she may have wielded the ‘brush’, the inspiration for her macabre mural sat in the middle of the desecration, wallowing in the gory palette. He was awash in it. He smeared it over his skin, and rubbed it through his hair; his insane laughter matching the insanity now shining like beacons from his blood-covered face.
Her laughter joined his; it was so good to be free! Free to deliver her vengeance on those who deserved it! Free to unleash a power that had been imprisoned for too long. Free! Finally free!
She turned as she felt the return of one of her legion. She’d sent out ‘scouts’ when she’d felt a disturbance on the air; the arrival of something that held great power; a suppressed power. It had worried her. A suppressed power was a dangerous power.
She crooked a long finger, beckoning the sliver; smiling as it snaked its way over to her. It slid over her foot, winding up her calf, her thigh; around her torso, slinking between her breasts as it crept across her shoulder. It whispered over the hollow of her throat and stole up to her ear.
The black mass that shrouded the apartment began to pulse violently; its agitation matching the slow fury that contorted the face of its mistress. Thick, dark strands began to whip out, inflicting vicious cuts on the unhinged man that sat giggling in the quagmire of torn flesh and blood; venting the fury of its mistress.
She shook with untold rage as the identity of the intruders was confirmed. She could barely contain the all-consuming fury that washed through her. Her whole body shook with it. She embraced the violent wrath that enveloped her; harnessing it. She had hoped for hunters, but this? Oh, she would use it to wreak the ultimate vengeance.
She raised a hand; stopping the torture of the man. The black tendrils retreated; hanging loosely from the contagion, bobbing and weaving around the man, poised to resume their attack at their mistress’s slightest whim.
She turned; making her slow way towards the man; the quivering malignant growth pulling away from her approach. She crouched in front of her victim; putting a slender finger to his bloodied lips to stop his deranged chuckles. She lifted his chin, inspecting him. She smiled, reaching out and slicing the filament that held the eyeball that rested on his cheek; cutting it free and watching it fall with a wet-slap, to the floor. He didn’t need it.
“I have a task for you,” she whispered.
He nodded eagerly, grinning up at her like a puppy that wanted to please its master. She lowered her lips to his ear; her corrupt whispers trickling into his already destroyed mind, skewering deep as she manipulated her ghoulish puppet.
She stepped back; smiling again as he rose, determination on a face that was illuminated by madness. He looked longingly at the woman that had changed his whole world; resolutely vowing to follow her instructions to the letter. He nodded his compliance; his blood-soaked hair casting small sprays across the wall behind him. He turned; opening the door and allowing the small tendril he was to follow, slither out ahead of him. The feel of his eyeball popping underneath his foot, didn’t even register.
Continue to Part Two